Let’s hear it for oats! They’re gluten-free, whole grain, filling and heart healthy. That’s a lot of punch packed into a tiny grain.
What are the health benefits of oats?
Someone asked me recently, “Does oatmeal have fiber?” The answer is: Yes! Oats are known for their abundance of fiber. Fiber increases satiety (you’ll feel fuller longer!), aids in lowering cholesterol, prevents constipation and diverticulosis, boosts your immune system, and, when consumed as a regular part of your diet, can help keep blood sugar within a healthy range.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that women aim for 25 grams of fiber daily, while men should try for 38 grams (or 21 to 30 grams daily, for those over age 50). Oatmeal – and oats in any form – are a perfect way to increase your daily intake. A single cup of oatmeal delivers about four grams of fiber.
What are the best ways to enjoy oats?
In their purest form, steel cut oats are minimally processed and contain more fiber than their counterparts. Steel cut oats are one of the healthiest grains you can eat as they contain the oat bran (the hard outer layer of the grain) chopped into tiny pieces.
Rolled oats and old-fashioned oats are also a good source of whole-grain fiber and can be found in instant oats, cold cereal, bread, cookies and bars.
Tips for buying the healthiest oatmeal
When selecting oat products online or in the aisles, it’s important to check the nutrition label for a few key things so you reap as many health benefits as possible from this great grain.
Check that the first ingredient listed contains the word “whole.” This means the oat is a whole grain oat (steel cut, rolled or old fashioned), yielding beneficial fiber and protein content.
Looking at total carbohydrate and added-sugar content can help you shave off up to a hundred calories. Often, instant oatmeal comes in a variety of fruit flavors. These are usually artificial flavors in the form of added sugar. Some varieties have up to 14 grams of added sugar!
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of total calories per day to prevent weight gain from empty calories. Oatmeal in its purest form should contain no more than 27 grams of carbohydrates and only one gram of sugar.
Also be aware of the sugar content when selecting an oat-based granola. These products can be whole grain and have adequate protein and fiber and still contain high added sugars. Look for granola that doesn’t have cane syrup, brown sugar or sugar listed in the ingredients. This ensures that it doesn’t have any added calories from sugar.
Always look for higher fiber content. Steel cut oats provide four grams of fiber and five grams of protein per half cup serving. Granola mixes and granola bars that contain oats can have three to seven grams of fiber per serving, depending on other grains included. High-fiber granola bars can provide up to nine grams of fiber per serving from both oats and added plant-based fiber. Oat grain breads typically contain from one to five grams of fiber per serving depending on the flour used.
How to make healthy oatmeal
Combine your oatmeal with a lean or plant-based protein to get a full range of nutrition benefits.
Other ways to enjoy oats
Add oats or granola to Greek yogurt and berries for breakfast, a snack or dessert.
Top toasted oat bread with all-natural nut butters and add sliced banana or other favorite fruit to combine grains, fruits and healthy fats.
Use oat bread for sandwiches to pair your grain and protein food groups.
It’s even easy now to grab some good quality granola bars at a convenience store.
There are no excuses to overlook oats! Take these recommendations to heart and enjoy reaping the delicious and healthy benefits of this mighty little grain.